Every mainstream school except private and independent schools are expected to have a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in place, although may be known by other titles such as “Inclusion Manager”. When appointing new SENCOS, schools need to consider whether they are qualified teachers and have the National SENCO Training Award or be enrolled in the training programme.
The SENCO is required to be a teacher at the school, with overall responsibility for ensuring children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities are identified and assessed, the appropriate support and approaches are in place and progress is tracked. The SENCO also advises other staff about SEN issues and procedures, and has a strategic and training role, working with the school’s senior management team and governing body.
Newly appointed SENCOs must be qualified teachers and have the national SENCO training award, or undertake this within 3 years of appointment. The role is an important one in the Children and Families Act (2014) in bringing about the significant culture change required by the new special educational needs/disabilities legislation that comes into effect from September 2014.
This training programme requirement was introduced in 2008 and for the first 3 years the government offered funded places for this award. Since 2011 schools/settings have been responsible for funding staff to undertake this training.
The SENCO role is a critical one in introducing the new SEN reforms. The 2014 SEN Code of Practice and the SEN Regulations clarify what the SENCO role includes and the prescribed qualifications and experience required in this post. They describe the range of work expected of the SENCO post – the key responsibilities, and expectations for monitoring effectiveness of their work. It is anticipated that the SENCO role will be a key strategic one in school in helping to promote inclusion and achievement, and supporting the cultural change needed so as to meet the high aspirations of this Government.
The National SENCO Award is a statutory requirement for all newly appointed SENCOS and the training programme is also excellent professional development for experienced SENCOs.
Mandatory qualifications and training requirements
The Education (Special Educational Needs Coordinators) (England) Regulations 2008 stipulated SENCOs must be qualified teachers, or the head teacher or acting head teacher for the school. The Regulations placed a duty upon Governing Bodies (s.17 of 1996 Act) for ensuring there is a SENCO in place who meets the training and qualifications requirements specified, including an entitlement to an induction period, and is working at the school as a teacher, and where appropriate holds the National Award for SENCO Training.
The SENCO Regulations amended the Education Act 2006 so that from September 2011 all SENCOs must be qualified teachers, or the head or acting head teacher. Some aspects of the SENCO job can still be supported by non-teaching staff. As well as the training and qualifications, and ensuring the SENCO is appropriately supported, the Governing Body of the school has the responsibility for monitoring the effectiveness of the work undertaken.
National Award for SENCO Training
The National Award for SENCO Training was introduced by the Training & Development Agency for schools (TDA) in 2009. It is a Master’s level training programme since its introduction 10,500 places have been funded nationally, covering course fees and 10 days supply cover. From 2014 schools are responsible for funding their SENCO to undertake the training.
The programme combines face-to-face small group teaching, lectures and completion of written assignments matched to core skills and 55 learning outcomes.
Sheffield Hallam is one of 25 approved training providers delivering the SENCO Award programme. Most of Sheffield’s SENCOs are enrolled with Hallam and undergo the training on a sub-regional basis.
Changes to the SENCO role the SEN reforms for September 2014
The new SEN Code of Practice and the SEN Regulations set out the responsibilities of the role, and in embedding new practice in schools. Within the new framework, the class teacher is the identified person who is responsible for the development and progress of all pupils, including those with special educational needs/disabilities. The SENCO should ensure this happens, and that parents are closely involved as equal partners in decisions about pupils’ learning. This gives the SENCO role important responsibility for ensuring all staff understand the implications of the SEN reforms and have access to high quality support and training to be able to do this. In the SEN Code of Practice (2014) chapters 5 and 6 describe what is required of the role in early years' settings and in schools. Schools must plan for special educational needs/disabilities as part of whole school development, and work closely with parents in all decisions about pupils educational needs.